Fossil Hunting! (aka Let’s go back in time 361 million years)

My friend and I went hunting for fossils at the Red Hill, near Hyner Run State Park, PA, yesterday.  It was awesome!  Mostly because the curator of the tiny museum on the second floor of the town school house was there with us, pointing things out and generally being an incredibly likeable and affable guy.  He is the best.  If you like fossils, and you want to learn more about the Devonian, you should contact Doug Rowe (ndrowe at kcnet dot org).  Check out this webpage for more info.

First, we stopped by the museum.

Before Tiktaalik was found, this was the oldest known amphibian fossil.

Before Tiktaalik was found, the Red Hill had the record for the oldest known amphibian fossil.  (I especially like the drawings.)


This is a figurine of a placoderm, and extinct group of armour-plated fishes. They’re bony armour fossilizes well, though!


Imprint of an almost complete ray-finned fish. (Doug’s finger for scale*)


Shark (Ageleodus pectinatus) teeth!


Big fish tooth


Print of a fish tooth


Scale of Megalichthyidid fish (shiny!)

Eurypteris lacustris

Eurypteris lacustris

I love these drawings by Jason Poole.  This one is a Gyracanthides murrayi.

I love these drawings by Jason Poole. This one is a Gyracanthides murrayi.

Then we went to the Red Hill and spent a couple of hours hunting for fossils.  Here’s the loot.

Fish scale

Fish scale*


Placoderm dorsal fin


Okay, not a fossil, but still cool! This is copper oxide.


Plant material


See the shark tooth? It’s in the circle, on the upper right hand side.  It looks like four hash marks.  I guess Devonian sharks were pretty little. Here, I’ll zoom in.

I put a black circle around the shark tooth, and a yellow circle around the ray-finned fish tooth.

I put a black circle around the shark tooth, and a yellow circle around the ray-finned fish tooth.


Fish tooth


Looks like a normal rock, right? Right?!


Bam! Fossil!


My favourite take of the day, a big fish tooth!


(You can tell I like it because I took three photos, with my fingers for scale*)


You can still see the foamy matrix inside the tooth.

*pun intended

11 thoughts on “Fossil Hunting! (aka Let’s go back in time 361 million years)

  1. I wanted to thank you on the insect ID. In your job, you have to have an abundance of knowledge. When I looked up the insects, there are too many that look the same, but maybe just a few hairs are a different color. You mentioned Fly Day. The next post of mine says I am doing it too after taking nice macros of them. In the third post on just flies, I thought about what benefit they have in the environment and photographed the flies in an artsy manner. Made me reconsider what I think of them. I don’t swat them anyway, not even the mosquitoes, but I did get a better appreciation for them.

    • I’m not a huge fan of flies, but I do my best. They are all kind of bristly under the scope, and I think Hymenoptera is much prettier in general. I will definitely link to your posts in mine so that people can check out your excellent photography. Some of the differences between insects are incredibly subtle (like relative pit width!) and it can be a challenge even for someone who looks at thousands of them. It is especially challenging when all you have to go on is a photo. I think you do a commendable job!

  2. Pingback: On the Road Again | standingoutinmyfield

  3. Your shark tooth looks a lot like a big conodont. How do you tell them apart?
    I wish I’d known about the Red Hill area when I still lived in Ohio. It wouldn’t have been “close”, but a lot closer and more practical than where I am now. Great photos!!

    • Thank you! I had to look up Conodonts on wikipedia…Doug didn’t mention them, so I don’t know how they distinguish shark vs conodont teeth, although I’m sure they had a good reason. Naively, I would say the conodont teeth seem more curved and variable in size. But that’s just my guess!

      Maybe there is a place to hunt for fossils where you live now!

      • I stumbled across your page because of your Tiktaalik reference. (I was looking for some info for a presentation.) I have to admit to being a bit star-struck by Dr. Shubin & co., so that’s why I’m regretful about never having visited Red Hill. But by the time I read about all that stuff, I was already down here in Texas.
        There’s actually tons of stuff down here (Dallas-Fort Worth area). A few weekends ago, and not too far away, I was visiting an area just littered with little fossils.There were lots of mollusc and brachiopod shells, more crinoids than you can shake a stick at, bryozoans, a very cool sponge (!), and a trilobite tail. Just the tail. I need to go back there and find a whole trilobite some day 😉
        Thanks for getting back to me. Finding your page within the murky interwebz was serendipitous.

      • Tiktaalik is the coolest. Haha, I’m glad you found my page! I have already learned a lot from you. Yes trilobites!! Supposedly there are some in the area where I am living now…I will have to hunt them down. Also, a fossil crinoid sounds so pretty.

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